Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA)

The Gangmaster Licensing Authority was set up in 2004 to protect workers following the deaths of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay.  It regulates businesses that provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry. The aim is to protect vulnerable workers from being exploited by ensuring workers receive fair pay, treatment, benefits and conditions.

There is a strict licensing scheme for those who provide workers in agriculture, forestry, shellfish gathering, horticulture and food and drink processing and packaging. If you are an employment agency, labour provider or gangmaster who provides workers to any of these sectors you must have a GLA licence. Similarly if you use labour in those sectors you must ensure the labour provider is licensed.

Licensed businesses are subject to inspections by the GLA to ensure that they are compliant with the strict regulations that apply to workers, covering health and safety, accommodation, pay, transport and training.

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How can businesses avoid investigation/prosecution?

It is a serious criminal offence to supply workers if you do not have a GLA Licence or to use an unlicensed Gangmaster.

If you are a licensed labour provider this may be suspended or revoked if the GLA carry out an audit/investigation and feel there are significant breaches of the requirements regarding staff pay and conditions.  One common problem is that caused by language difficulties.  A labour provider needs to ensure that all its workers understand documentation and instructions – even those for whom English is not their first language.  Some labour providers need an independent interpreter to protect workers and ensure there is no unfair treatment by those communicating instructions to them, or to translate documents such as contracts.  

For those who use labour in the regulated industries, such as farmers, you need to check that the agency supplying the workers is licensed. You can do so by contacting the GLA or going on their website. Some activities are exempt, but the rules are complex and if you are in any doubt you should take legal advice. Also, you should ensure the person you are dealing with is specified on the licence as having authority to Act (only certain named individuals can deal with customers). A common problem is where a licensed labour provider loses their licence and the labour user is not aware of this, so you need to make regular checks on the GLA website to ensure you aren’t caught out.

What to do if you are being investigated/prosecuted by the GLA

We have experience in advising labour providers who are investigated or prosecuted by the GLA or facing revocation of their GLA licence.  These are potentially serious cases and legal advice should be sought at an early stage. We can also provide advice to ensure labour providers or users are compliant with this complex legislation. For further information in this area please contact a member of our regulatory team on 0203 816 9274.

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